Bay Journal

June 2007 - Volume 17 - Number 4

Female Atlantic sturgeon, ready to spawn, found in Bay

Biologists in Maryland were surprised this spring when a waterman reported that a 7-foot, 170-pound Atlantic sturgeon turned up in his pound net off Tilghman Island.

No one had seen such a large fish in decades, despite a reward program that pays watermen $50 when live sturgeon are reported.

Biologists were excited when, after taking the fish to the lab, it turned out to be a female. And they became thrilled when it turned out the fish was getting ready to spawn.

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Brian Richardson, of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Fisheries Service. “In 10 years of this reward program, we have not seen a single ‘ripe’ female.” ...

Virginia acts to snuff oyster-borne virus; new rules enacted

Virginia enacted new oyster-harvesting rules for the summer to shield fans of the briny treat from a potentially deadly bacteria in coastal waters. Other oyster-producing states will likely follow Virginia’s lead as part of a crackdown on Vibrio contamination in humans.

Two forms of Vibrio—pronounced VIB-ree-oh—occur naturally in the Bay and along the Eastern Shore seaside. While usually not a health risk, their concentrations can increase above health-safety levels in warm conditions. ...

Average dead zone predicted for this summer

Scientists predict the Bay’s oxygen-depleted “dead zone” will be almost exactly average in size this year.

In their third annual forecast, they predict that from June through September, an average of 1.39 cubic kilometers—or 2.6 percent of the Bay’s mainstem, will be anoxic—essentially having no oxygen. That makes it off-limits to almost all Bay creatures.

If that prediction holds up, 2007 would rank 11th when compared with the previous 22 summers, according to Dave Jasinski, a University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science analyst. ...

Bay’s new smart buoys: You are here and so was Smith

When kayakers or other boaters come upon the new buoy off Jamestown, they don’t have to check their location on the map. They can just pull out their cell phone and let the buoy tell them.

With a quick call, today’s high-tech adventurers can get their exact longitude and latitude, learn they are in 43 feet of water—and that a statue of Capt. John Smith is staring straight at them a quarter mile away on the shoreline of the Jamestown National Historic Site.

The buoy, a font of geographical, natural and historical information, also provides data about wind, waves and weather. ...

Shallop adventurers set out to explore goodly bay 400 years later

A group of modern-day John Smiths rowed away in a small, open boat May 12 from Jamestown, the site of the first permanent English settlement in America, which Smith helped to found 400 years ago.

“This is all just kind of overwhelming,” the captain, Ian Bystrom, said before the boat left. “I’m used to just sailing boats and teaching kids and the next thing you know, we’re here on the 400th anniversary.”

Several hundred cheering people lined the shore of the James River as Bystrom, followed by his crew of 11, slowly stepped onto large rocks at the water’s edge and then into the 28-foot boat, called a shallop. ...

Chesapeake provision included in initial draft of House’s Farm Bill

The Bay region took the first step toward getting a bigger slice of the Farm Bill pie in May when the initial draft of the Farm Bill in the House Agriculture Committee included a special provision to help the Chesapeake.

It would establish a “Chesapeake Bay Program for Nutrient Reduction and Sediment Control” that would be authorized to spend a total of $100 million over five years to control nutrient and sediment from farms in the watershed.

The money would be used to implement a comprehensive plan, to be written by the U.S. agriculture secretary in consultation with the states and other federal agencies, to improve water quality in the Bay, restore habitats and increase economic opportunity for farmers and rural communities. ...

Regions increasingly seeking a fair share of agricultural spending

As Congress begins writing a new Farm Bill that will guide tens of billions of dollars of agricultural funds over the next five years, it will grapple with a difficult question: To what extent should certain regions get special treatment?

Lawmakers from the Bay region have introduced legislation, dubbed the Chesapeake Healthy and Environmentally Sound Stewardship of Energy and Agriculture Act, or CHESSEA, which would not only boost overall conservation funding, but steer more of it to the region to help meet Bay cleanup goals. ...

EPA, USDA to better coordinate efforts to control ag runoff in the watershed

The EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in May agreed to better coordinate their efforts to control nutrient pollution from farms and other pollution sources in the 64,000-square-mile Bay watershed.

In the Memorandum of Understanding signed May 10, the two agencies spelled out areas where they would work together, including prioritizing activities toward watersheds within the region which could have the biggest impact on Bay water quality.

“The agreement establishes a clear framework for a coordination of USDA and EPA resources that assigns priority to subwatersheds and conservation practices to restore, improve and protect the Chesapeake Bay and watershed,” said Gary Mast, USDA deputy undersecretary for Natural Resources and the Environment, who signed the memorandum. ...

Region’s senators unite to fight for Chesapeake in Farm Bill

Senators from the Bay region have joined their colleagues from the House in sponsoring legislation that would give the Bay region a bigger bite of federal agricultural spending when Congress writes a new Farm Bill this year.

In May, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-MD, introduced the Chesapeake Healthy and Environmentally Sound Stewardship of Energy and Agriculture Act of 2007 which would boost federal funding for agricultural conservation programs in the region by nearly $200 million a year from the roughly $80 million it gets now. ...

Targeted grants aim to prevent 1.5 million pounds of nutrients from entering Bay

Eight projects designed to prevent 1.5 million pounds of nutrients and 1.1 million pounds of sediment from reaching the Bay recently received a total of more than $5 million.

Projects being supported by the Chesapeake Bay Targeted Watershed Grants Program, which is funded by the EPA, will help to curb runoff from Maryland horse farms, compost manure in Pennsylvania and market environmentally sensitive dairy products in Virginia, among other projects. Grants range from $400,000 to $800,000. ...

3rd mitten crab found in Bay waters; public asked to keep a lookout

A third Chinese mitten crab was found in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake on May 18, renewing concerns that the exotic species may take up residence in the Bay.

The first two confirmed specimens, caught in the Patapsco River near Baltimore Harbor, were identified last July by scientists from the Smithsonian Institution.

One of the crabs had been captured a year earlier in 2005 and kept frozen until the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Smithsonian announced that they were on the lookout for the foreign crab. ...

Study gives B-WET program high marks even if it’s not on the test

Public school teacher “Jane Doe” is awash in Chesapeake Bay teaching tools and she’s eager to put them to work. But only a fraction of her knowledge and enthusiasm will ever reach her students.

Doe attended training sessions, maybe more than once, to learn more about the Bay watershed and opportunities for her students. She was introduced to natural resource professionals who helped to hone her outdoor teaching skills and offered to partner with her on student projects. She has new access to maps, data, websites and grant programs that can fund field work and equipment. ...

VA scientists searching for secrets of stealthy sturgeon

For the past four centuries, people have done their best to prove Capt. John Smith wrong when he reported that the James River had more sturgeon “than could be devoured by dog or man.”

In the following centuries, the giant fish were often pulled from the water and thrown on shore to die. “They were seen as a behemoth that destroyed fishing gear,” said Chris Hager, a fisheries scientist in the Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. “People were just killing them to get them out of the river.” ...

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